Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards. When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.” So Simon Peter climbed back into the boat and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead. – John 21:7-14
This is the last water-related passage in John, and the last one in the gospels. The Living Water has been crystal clear in the Gospels up to this point despite the inability of many, including the disciples at times, to see it. This past summer I had the opportunity to check an item off of my bucket list – to swim in Crater Lake, the deepest in the United States. The water was incredibly clear and not as cold as I would have expected. Jumping in was the hardest part, once I was in the lake the scenery and shear magnitude of where I was made me forget any chill in the water.
My father used to say “go jump in the lake”. I do not think this is what he meant when he said it. Peter and the others had just figured out where to cast their nets, but not why they were doing it. The “disciple whom Jesus loved” recognized this Man on the shore and only after that did Peter see Jesus.
Peter’s reaction was typical, jump in the lake first, think second. In a scene reminiscent of Forrest Gump when he saw Lieutenant Dan Peter just wraps himself in his cloak and jumps overboard. I am a bit perplexed by Peter’s wrapping himself in his garment before jumping in the water. This would seem counter intuitive and unwise. How does one swim wrapped in a garment? Perhaps that is the point. Peter was often wrapped up in things that distracted and kept him from swimming and walking on water.
The passage does not describe Peter’s thrashing about to get to shore wrapped in his garment, but that is the picture that my imagination conjures. The others, perhaps wisely, remained in the boat and arrived at the shore to meet up with this mysterious Man and the probably wet, cold, and tired Peter. Fortunately Jesus has a warm fire going with some fish and bread for them to eat. Jesus says something profoundly ordinary to the somewhat confused men “Come and have breakfast.” He did not say who He was or why He was there just come and eat.
This seemingly banal breakfast with their Lord alive and well must have been somewhat surreal and “spiritual squall” inducing. They were afraid to ask Him who He was “None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” Why did they not dare and ask Him? Would Jesus have minded them asking? My impression from the rest of the gospel interactions is that Jesus would have been happy to have them say what Mary said “Rabboni” “teacher”. These men, with the exception of Peter, were really afraid to reach out and Love their Lord. Peter had His own issues with acknowledging Jesus in front of others which Jesus will deal with shortly.
So which is better to be unsure and unwilling to “see” Jesus or to jump out of the boat and swim for it like Peter? I think the surprising answer is actually neither. The true journey home requires neither swimming skills or independent insights. It requires a humble servant willing to faithfully follow and love Jesus even when we are not sure He is even there.
Prayer: God help us to faithfully follow You even when it is difficult to see you.